Days before New Yorkers head to the polls, presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders will be visiting the home of a higher authority. The Vermont senator will travel to Vatican City on April 15, just five days before he goes up against frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the Empire State’s Democratic primary. Said Sanders in a campaign statement Friday morning: “I am delighted to have been invited by the Vatican to a meeting on restoring social justice and environmental sustainability to the world economy.”
The New York primary, a crucial juncture in this hotly contested race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, may be close at hand, but candidate Bernie Sanders took this past weekend to visit the Vatican for a “high-level meeting” with the Pope. With some critics questioning the prudence of leaving the States so close to the pivotal primary, and the New York Times citing a representative from the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences who claimed that Sanders’ camp had fished for the invitation, the trip was a bold move. But in politics as in life, bold moves can occasionally pay off, and the Senator landed a valuable sit-down with the holiest man on the planet.
At first, it was uncertain whether Sanders would be able to secure any face-time with the understandably busy Pope, but the candidate was optimistic as he prepared for the trip, saying, “I certainly would be delighted and proud if I had the opportunity to meet with him.” Fortunately for him, his local liaison Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo was close to Francis and helped facilitate an audience for Sanders with the Pope at the Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse where Francis keeps his residence.
As schedules continued to shift and Sanders bounced from meeting to meeting around the Vatican, the certainty of the Pope’s availability became increasingly cloudy. But while seated at dinner with foreign policy advisor Jeffrey Sachs and their wives Jane and Sonia, respectively, Sanders received the news he had been hopefully awaiting. His time with the Pope would be informal and brief, a quick meet-and-greet in the foyer of the Casa Santa Marta at 6 A.M. the next morning, but he had been granted an audience.
Sanders was reportedly all smiles as he toured St. Peter’s Basilica later that day, “beaming” as he passed Bernini’s Baldacchino, a monumental bronze canopy over the papal altar, and Michelangelo’s Pietà. Sanders was vocal about his enthusiasm for the quick meeting:
“I conveyed to him my great admiration for the extraordinary work that he is doing all over the world in demanding that morality be part of our economy.”